I answered the phone and the call made me shake and drop to my knees. She is one of my closest friends. She loves me and I love her. We have laughed together countless times. Giggling is fun! We’ve never forced a conversation. I’ve never had to hide behind a smile. She loves me even when I frown. If I let my guard down around her she is a safe friend. I never have to pretend I am someone I’m not. And if I am someone I’m not for a little while, she never holds it against me or brings it up. No “remember when you were grumpy, sad, stubborn, and / or doubtful?” No more remember whens. No more bad yesterdays. Just precious todays. Just anticipation and believing in beautiful tomorrows. No more sorrow. No more pain. No grudges. No judgment. Just wisdom and forgiveness.
Back to the phone call. Back to the trembling voice on the other end to the phone.
“Helo, I’m scared.”
“Why? What’s going on?”
Nothing but tears intertwined with silence on the other end of the phone.
“Are you okay? I can come over right now.”
“No, I know you’re busy.”
“Not too busy for you.”
More silence between tears.
“Helo, I have stage four cancer. I’m so scared.”
“Would you like me to come over? I can sit and just listen.”
“No, I don’t want you to get off the phone. I just want you to listen to me some more, right now. Besides, my husband will be home soon.”
“What can I do for you, precious one?”
“I just need you to be a safe friend.”
“Beloved, you know everything between us stays between you, me, and God.”
“I know. I just don’t want to go to Heaven. Not yet anyway.”
“I don’t want you to go either. What did the doctor say?”
“It’s spread. Stage four is mean. Part of my colon, liver, and kidney needs to be removed. Then chemotherapy and radiation. Why me, God?”
“I don’t know, beloved. You asked me to be a ‘safe’ friend. I promise you I will be. I won’t bring this up when we talk again, not because I don’t care, but rather because I do. You bring it up with me when you want to. I won’t stop praying about it, but I will stop asking about it.”
“When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness.”
In every conversation since the day my precious friend told me that she has stage four cancer, we only talk about it when she brings it up. And when she doesn’t, we still have quiet, tender, laugh-filled moments. We both need normal ones, as normal as they can be given what we both know. We love each other deeply, even when we hide behind our smiles.
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.”
Why is being a ‘safe’ friend important?
There are times we need to be a loving friend. “A friend loves at all times.” (Proverbs 17:17). There are also times when being a “loving” friend means being a “safe” one too. When we face something difficult we all need moments of normalcy. It’s not denial. Instead, it’s renewal. You have, are, or will face something that frightens you. Often that’s when you’ll want a “safe” friend. Someone who tells you, “I will keep this between you, me, and God.”
When I faced four miscarriages, attempting to conceive again, I needed a safe friend. I didn’t want to talk about my hope of getting pregnant. I didn’t want to talk about other friends having babies. I was hurting like crazy and just wanted a few safe friends. God surrounded me with them. He is so good at comforting.
When I dealt with that brain tumor diagnosis, I had only six days before I’d lie on a gurney. I needed normal moments. I needed time with my husband and kids. I didn’t want to field questions. Couldn’t handle that. I needed safe friends. God brought them to me, again. Time and time again through every heart-wrenching challenge, God showed me what a safe friend was, and one day He took the lesson He taught me to be a safe friend for someone else.
But sometimes, our safety can only go so far. I will do the best I can to be a safe friend for my friend, but I can’t be everything she needs. Only God can do that. Part of being a safe friend is knowing when to step back and let God sort it out.
I now know that my best and safest friend is Jesus. He showed me His love through my safe friends. He is so good at surrounding us with people who can comfort. And when comfort from my friends isn’t enough, I know that God is just a prayer away.
If Jesus is your best friend, share Him with others. And if He isn’t your best friend yet, ask Him to be. He’s the best and safest friend you’ll ever have. Listen to Him.
Oh, how Jesus loves you. Remember that.
Hope in Him,